It’s pretty common knowledge today that not only is dark chocolate delicious, it boasts some cardioprotective properties. That’s good news for cardiac rehabilitation professionals looking to encourage good dietary behaviors in enrollees who have a sweet tooth. Before your participants go berserk in the chocolate aisle, however, share this information to help them make healthy choices. News & Views asked Lauryn Costa, a dietetic intern at Helen Hayes Hospital in Westhavershaw, New York, to clear up five myths about dark chocolate consumption.
MYTH #1: All dark chocolate is "good" (i.e., healthy) chocolate!
"The health benefits of chocolate derive from its properties of antioxidants, which help fight disease by protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants are found in cacao, but different types of dark chocolate contain different percentages of this ingredient. It's important to read labels and learn the percentage of cacao within your chocolate. A good rule of thumb is to aim for dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa, the higher the better!1 Sugar content is another component of chocolate that should be considered – high sugar content can outweigh the benefits of the antioxidants. Dark chocolate, however, usually contains less sugar than a standard milk chocolate bar.1 Although it is recommended over the milk chocolate variety, it is important to note that not all dark chocolate is created equal!"
MYTH #2: Because dark chocolate is “healthy,” I can eat as much of it as I want!
"Dark chocolate, along with most other yummy sweets, should be eaten in moderation! It is recommended to keep consumption of dark chocolate down to about 1-2 ounces (30-60g) per day to limit overconsumption of calories. A 1.45-ounce Hershey Dark Chocolate Bar contains 190 calories and 21 grams of sugar.2 It's important to be aware of the nutritional content of chocolate because an excessive amount can cause weight gain and increase risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.2 Enjoy each delicious bite of your dark chocolate, but be cautious not to overdo it!"
MYTH #3: It is better to eat dark chocolate (or any treat) early in the day!
"True! A study done by Harvard proclaimed that consuming chocolate early in the morning has the potential to reduce blood glucose levels and even increase the burning of fat.3 A different article reports that eating chocolate in the morning resulted in a 4.4% reduction in fasting glucose compared to eating no chocolate, compared to a 4.9% increase in fasting glucose observed in people consuming chocolate at night."4
MYTH #4: Eating dark chocolate can reverse/treat my mild hypertension!
"A study has shown that a small amount of 70% dark chocolate each day has been able to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension due to its content of antioxidants as well as magnesium.4 Although helpful, this benefit is not large enough to treat hypertension and should certainly not be a replacement for medical treatment."5
MYTH #5: Dark chocolate is off-limits because I’m diabetic!
"Excessive consumption of dark chocolate, as well as any other type of chocolate or sweets, can cause a spike in blood glucose levels and weight gain -- which both have negative effects for people with diabetes.6 However, it is completely fine to consume in moderation as long as it falls within your diet. As a matter of fact, the antioxidant effects of dark chocolate are able to improve glucose tolerance and induce pancreatic beta-cell regeneration, which have both been shown to improve diabetes, albeit on a relatively small scale."6
- Is Dark Chocolate Good for Your Heart? (2019, June 24). Scripps Health. Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.scripps.org/news_items/5317-is-dark-chocolate-healthy
- How Much Dark Chocolate Can I Eat Every Day? -. (n.d.). Life Enriching Communities. Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://lec.org/blog/how-much-dark-chocolate-can-i-eat-every-day/
- Communications, B. (2021, June 24). Starting the day off with chocolate may have unexpected benefits. Harvard Gazette. Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/06/starting-the-day-off-with-chocolate-may-have-unexpected-benefits/
- Merle, A. (2021, July 19). Why You Should Eat Chocolate in the Morning. Andrew Merle. Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://andrewmerle.medium.com/why-you-should-eat-chocolate-in-the-morning-eb01b81dc56
- Sagon, C. (n.d.). Dark Chocolate Helps Lower Blood Pressure, Heart Disease Risk. AARP. Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.aarp.org/health/medical-research/info-03-2011/dark-chocolate-can-help-lower-your-blood-pressure.html
- Shah, S., & Alweiss, R. (2017, September 19). Use of dark chocolate for diabetic patients: a review of the literature and current evidence. NCBI. Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5699188/